It takes more than good intentions to transform the South. It takes money.

What the hell is a Scalawag?

My work has been trying to find ways to talk about suicide for years. This national issue becomes even more injurious for queer people living in the South, where a prevalent current of Christianity stigmatizes both queer people and people living with mental health issues.  

A friend of mine killed himself a week before I wrote this. He was queer and fought hard against schizophrenia and deep, persistent depression. There's only a handful of people that I can talk openly about suicide and suicidal ideation. He was one of them. I create work to continue our dialogue about queer identity and mental health. 

The Queer Color Series started as a very playful reaction to the excessively morose work I was creating prior. The photographs were desaturated; a lot of black and white with death and blood everywhere. The Queer Color Series expresses all of the anguish and sadness of the previous work, but against a brightly colored facade. And that felt, in some ways, more real to me. The images became multidimensional, with more layered meaning and nuance, and I quickly realized that color was a mechanism that would allow me to explore my sexuality and mental health issues in a way that is more palatable to the viewer and that feels more enriching for me to share. 

Each color has an emotional evocation. "Relentless Olive" was inspired by a vintage 1970's avocado green fabric for a West Coast diner interior I'm working on. I made both the white shirt and the green oversized dress in this image. The oversized shirt-dress was inspired by a friend's company, New Market Goods. I saw that shape and thought "Wow! I need to use that in my work somehow!"

While working as a graphic designer I uncovered that I have several color traumas. I was able to trace back several of those traumas, and it has been liberating for me to name a color as it relates to an unhealthy mental space:

  • a hunter green shirt that I wore as a uniform in catholic school,
  • the tan slacks that accompanied, 
  • the bright orange jacket that I wore for months on end because it was my only warm jacket. And then the bright orange fleece I had too. Why was I so into burnt orange? I really don't know.

In the Queer Color Series I want to reappropriate my color traumas and engage in a full spectrum.

One of the first things you may notice about this progression of images is that in all of the photos, the subject's face is hidden. The facelessness is very intentional. I identify as queer, but feel objectified in queer spaces, and constantly violated. I don't feel like a human, but rather like a faceless shell. A cluster of stereotypes and assumed consent.

I feel in some ways trapped in my body and I would like to be more expressive and far less gendered. I don't think masculinity has to be as rigid as its made out to be.  So these images are, in that sense, sort of an alternative reality. A world I hope to eventually live in. A dream perhaps. A colorful dream. 

Patrick Di Rito

Patrick Di Rito is an artist and designer in Atlanta. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Georgia Tech in 2012. He is a 2016 Hambidge Fellow. Di Rito has shown excerpts from his Queer Color Series at Mammal Gallery and Mumur. Excerpts have also appeared in Number: Ninety and Wussy Mag. His first solo show Dusty Rose appeared at The Bakery Gallery in 2018.